Wednesday, March 28, 2012
The Patrick Melrose Novels by Edward St. Aubyn
Author Edward St. Aubyn has chronicled the life of Patrick Melrose in a series of novels culminating in At Last, which was published earlier this year. Coinciding with the release of the final installment of the series, the first four, Never Mind, Bad News, Some Hope and Mother's Milk were republished in a single volume, collectively titled The Patrick Melrose Novels.
In Never Mind Patrick is a five-year-old boy caught between an abusive father and a neglectful mother, who is also a victim of Patrick's father David. The events unfold over the course of the day as guests and hosts prepare and attend a dinner party. David's abusive tactics are on full display and the reader gets to see the effects not only on his wife and son, but on his friends. Patrick's story picks up several years later in Bad News when he is 22 and addicted to heroin. He flies to New York to pick up his father ashes and spends most of his time in America buying drugs, doing drugs, and thinking about drugs. As the title implies, Some Hope offers the possibility of hope as Patrick is now 30 and sober, but still fragile. He casually reveals to a friend what his father did to him in Never Mind. The revelation takes place over the course of a paragraph or two and almost seems like it is unimportant, when clearly it had a huge impact on Patrick's life. In Mother's Milk Patrick is married and a father to two young sons, and is struggling with sobriety, marriage, infidelity, parenthood, and his mother's continued abandonment.
I am not sure how I feel about these novels. The first two were depressing but engaging. The mood improved in Some Hope but not by much. My biggest complaint is that the books did not really make me think or feel much, perhaps largely because I did not feel that I ever really got to know the character of Patrick, even though much of the stories are from Patrick's point of view. It is no surprise that the abused five-year-old grows up to be a drug addict, and it is wonderful to find him sober in the third novel, but the reader never gets to see the journey between points A, B and C. He just suddenly is all these things. I wish some of the gaps had been filled in. That being said (or written), I liked the books. It is a glimpse of a certain segment of wealthy, British society, and there are some funny lines. I was never bored.
This also happen to be my experience reading on my Nook. Reading using the device proved to be easy on the eye, which was what I was most worried about. It felt almost like reading text on a piece of paper. I did at times miss having a physical book. For one, it was annoying to have to worry about keeping the Nook charged. When I was about forty pages from the end I found that it needed to be charged before I could continue, which was exceedingly annoying. I also missed being able to flip between pages (without knowing the exact page number). Though I will continue to use the Nook for some books, I am still dedicated to paper.